The adorable 4-inch robot is meant to act as a companion with its ability to engage in friendly conversations. The Kirobo Mini, thanks to its miniature size, can fit in the palm of a hand, making it the perfect partner for a long road trip. When in a conversation with a person, the robot will turn its head toward the speaker and engage in a casual conversation. A built-in camera allows the robot to recognize the speaker's facial expressions and adjust its tone and gestures to match the conversation.
Sounds kind of creepy right? The Kirobo Mini can also move its head and hands. The robot uses information obtained through connected services, which include the vehicle's location, to provide more personalized comments that include: "That was a long drive. Good job."
The talking, child-like robot is a strange non-automotive venture for Toyota. The robot's abilities center on companionship and, as Reuters points out, is meant to illicit an emotional response to help Japan's tumbling birth rates. With Japan's elderly and young singles living alone, Toyota is also looking to give isolated individuals some company.
The Kirobo Mini is equipped with Bluetooth, which allows the robot to be connected to a smartphone through a special application. Designated Toyota dealers in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture – a district of Japan in the Chubu region – will get access to the robot first, with Toyota dealers across the rest of Japan getting the machine in 2017. The Kirobo Mini is priced at roughly $391, with no word on whether it will be sold globally.
Toyota isn't the only automaker to create a robot as Honda's ASIMO is capable of kicking a ball, interacting with objects, talking, and running.